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Performance Forensics

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The health care industry has well-established protocols for the triage, diagnosis, and treatment of patient complaints, while the resolution of system-performance complaints often seems to take a path that lacks any recognizable process or discipline. This article draws from lessons and concepts of health care delivery to provide ideas for addressing system-performance complaints with predictable and accurate results. Specific tools from the Solaris Operating System are discussed. This article is applicable to all audience levels.
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The health care industry has well-established protocols for the triage, diagnosis, and treatment of patient complaints, while resolution of system performance complaints often seems to take a path that lacks any recognizable process or discipline.

This article draws from lessons and concepts of health care delivery to present ideas for addressing system performance complaints with predictable and accurate results. Specific tools from the Solaris™ Operating System (Solaris OS) are discussed.

Introduction

The treatment of illness and relief of discomfort has a wide and historic body of knowledge and practice. We call those who are skilled in applying such knowledge and practices doctors, and we trust them with our lives. In computer performance analysis, the knowledge base is younger, and the practice less developed. We call performance experts gurus, and we trust them with our computer systems.

How do gurus do what they do? It is not just a matter of expertise in using tools or being very smart. It is mostly that they think and work very much like doctors. Doctors share common elements of philosophy, education, experience1, and established methods of problem solving. Modern medical practices ensure that patients and caregivers know their roles, and it proceeds according to relatively well-known processes and protocols. Analogies relating to medicine can provide a familiar framework and perspective for both patients and caregivers in resolving computer-performance issues and optimizing business computing objectives.

This article uses liberal doses of medical terminology and analogies as a means of discussing a variety of performance analysis topics. The first sections of this article are philosophical in nature, discussing some analogues between medicine and computer-performance analysis. Subsequent sections present practical information on applying these analogies with tools and techniques for performance troubleshooting and optimization in the Solaris OS environment.

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